Standard Serving Sizes

As I am doing pretty much all of the cooking at home at the moment (some outstanding successes, some outstanding failures but mostly edible), I do most of the grocery shopping as well. This entails wandering around the supermarket and selecting the food for the coming week.

The selection process consists of checking the package for breakages, reading the information about the food on the label, checking the cooking information and so on. The food information is sometimes the most confusing and interesting. For example, I read the label on a normal and a diet product, and see that the diet product has less fat, but more sugar than the normal product. OK. I’ll play that game – what is more damaging if you are trying to lose weight, sugar or fat?

However, the best label I have come across so far is the one illustrated. I was looking at hot dogs (footy franks, frankfurts) for something different for lunch tomorrow and came across these. Everything was proceeding well and the food information all seemed OK until I noticed that the information provided totals for the entire package, and then totals for a standard serve of the item. So far so good. It all seemed good for the hot dogs, fat levels not too high, carbohydrates OK and so on. Then I noticed that the packet told me on the food information that it (the packet) contained 12 standard servings. Of course, this is what the food information is presumably based on.

The problem with all this? There are only 9 hot dogs in the packet!

So, do we cut one quarter of each hot dog off before eating and then join those quarters together with some magical food adhesive to make the missing 3 hot dogs?

Perhaps it is best to just accept the fact that no matter what the label says, hot dogs are not healthy even though they taste good. Now, where’s the mustard and sauce?

Seoul Food in Ulaanbaatar

“James Brown Park” in the UB Post in an article titled Seoul Food talks about Korean Food in Ulaanbaatar. He notes

I like Korean food. Yes, it is more limited than Chinese as shown to me not long ago when I was shepherding some Korean businessmen around town who had brought kimchee, canned sesame leaves, and hot sauce with them from Korea to accompany buuz and khuushur.

He then goes on to discuss a Korean restaurant on the northern side of town that he quite likes, I guess because of the proximity to his apartment.

Being an Australian and having lived in Korea for many years as well as in Ulaanbaatar for two years, I must admit to having somewhat of a strong opinion of Asian cuisine. The first thing that should be noted about restaurants in Ulaanbaatar is that mercifully there seems to be more Korean Restaurants than there are Chinese Restaurants. Certainly this is the case in the central part of town.

This is merciful as the Chinese food in Mongolia really is pretty ordinary – indeed, in many cases, awful. The best Chinese Restaurant I have found is 30 kilometres out of town at the Hotel Mongolia. A nice location, especially in the summer with the beach and near the river, but a long trip in winter.

As for the Korean restaurants, the one Park speaks of near Los Bandidos is really pretty ordinary. The food there is not so good and even though Park is using a family name that is typically Korean, he cannot be as no Korean I know would hesitate to ask ajuma for more lettuce at a barbecue.

As far as Korean food goes, the Seoul Restaurant probably offers the best barbecues in Ulaanbaatar, including the fusion dish of Barbecue Mutton. Their Chinese food is also excellent. Then just down from ikh delguur (State Department Store) are three Korean restaurants, one of which you would swear you were in a restaurant in the residential areas of Seoul. These restaurants all offer the traditional soup and noodle dishes as well as the Korean “Chinese” dishes.

There are another 4 or 5 Korean Restaurants along Seoul street all serving fine food.

And the restaurants all have English Language menus as well. The most frustrating thing about the menus is that they are in Mongolian, Korean and English. In Mongolian and Korean a dish will be described as Daenjung-chiggae [not sure of English spelling]. In English it will be called “soy bean paste soup”.

Fortunately I read enough Korean to be able to recognise what I want off the Korean menu. My Mongolia friends are always impressed as well when I order dinner in Korean – even the Mongolian girls working in the restaurants speak restaurant Korean.

As for a favourite meal for Mongolian guests, barbecue is good so I usually order them samgapsal or taegi-kalbi or taegi-bulgogi, usually one portion more than the number of us eating (4 people order 5 portions). I also order daenjung-chiggae and bab (and beer or tea). Usually we end up asking for more soup and the soup is an introduction to them to other Korean soups and dishes. All have enjoyed these mixes of food.

All my friends now insist on my ordering dinner at a Korean restaurant. We don’t eat Chinese there any more.

Thomo’s Rules of Eating and Cooking

OK, Thomo is an Aussie, which is why he was referred to in the past as the Lost Aussie. Being Aussie, of course, Thomo likes to barbecue food. Forget the Americans and the British – when it comes to BBQ, Aussies have it – it’s a lay down misère (well, there may be a little competition from the Koreans but hey, their cooking styles are not well enough known yet to count).

I will include recipes in Thomo’s Hole from time to time. In the meantime, Thomo believes three things in relation to cooking:

  1. BBQ rules
  2. If not BBQ, then maximum preparation and cooking time should be 30 minutes.
  3. If it is exotic, then two saucepans is OK to cook with otherwise, maximum one (Thomo does not like to clean up and wash up).

Of course, travelling the world, I have also been exposed to many and varied “interesting” dishes. At one stage in Korea, one of our favourite games was to order fried chicken from the local fried chicken shop, then sit in the apartment and play “guess the bit”.

All this travelling has led to Thomo’s Three Laws of Eating. Simply expressed, these can save you from a number of unpleasant meals when travelling and if presented to those in the country you are travelling in as religious beliefs, will generally be accepted as such and honoured.

Oh, and the Laws? Simple:

  1. Dead.
  2. Cooked.
  3. Should never have connected the mouth to the bottom on any animal (i.e., offal is off).

These rules will see you well in almost any environment. For example, When a Korean takes you out for live octopus, you can fall back on rules 1 and 2. Japanese take you out for sushi? Definitely a rule 2. Fresh Rock Oysters? Rule 1. Sea Cucumber with Chinese friends? Rule 3.

See how simple this can be?

Now, if you are a really finicky eater, then there are three supplementary rules that can also be bought into play, namely:

  1. It should have been warm blooded.
  2. It should have had four legs and walked the earth
  3. If it did not have four legs, then we should be talking two legs; and feathers should also be strongly involved in it’s lifestyle.

Now, I know that rules out seafood but hey, they are optional and it does allow you to tailor the inputs without offending a host.

Happy munching now!

Note: This was first published in Thomo’s Hole in April 2003 but has been used over the years as a way of avoiding food in a variety of countries. It has mostly been successful.